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Enjoyment And Suffering Goes Together – Story Of King Janaka and Young Brahmacharin

When a young brahmacharin came to King Janaka for spiritual instruction the king began to explain the shastras to him. The boy wanted to know how it was possible to live in the world and not be of the world, and he wanted to know whether man could really be unaffected in pleasure and pain. The king tried to explain this to him quoting many texts from the Vedas. The brahmacharin listened attentively but when the instruction was finished he told the king frankly, ‘Sir, what you have told me, my father has also told me. I expected to hear something more from you.’

The king said, ‘Very well, my boy, come tomorrow and I shall teach you what your father has not taught you.’ The boy went home and returned the next morning for instruction, after having bathed and performed his religious practice as becomes a brahmacharin. When he entered the palace (we must remember that in former times many kings were sages and besides ruling their kingdom, they often taught the highest wisdom to their subjects) the boy found the king stretched on an easy lounge, soft pillows supporting his head and silk cloth covering his body. Many attendants were standing by, serving the king in different ways. One was fanning the king, another was gently massaging with perfumed ointments, a third preparing delicious cool drinks. The air was filled with a most delicate fragrance. The boy paid his respect to the king and sat down to be instructed.

But the king remained silent. The boy waited but not a word came from the king. Then he became slightly annoyed. He wondered what was the good in waiting there. ‘The king is no jnani; he cannot teach much. He lives like a worldly man enjoying all there is to be enjoyed. See how he is waited on. And he is enjoying it so much that he forgets to teach me.’

The king knew every thought that passed through the brahmacharin’s mind, for he was a rajarshi, a kingly sage, a seer of Truth. At last he spoke, ‘My boy, you have watched me long enough on this side. Now step around behind the curtain that is concealing the other half of my body.’ The boy did as he was told. And what did he see? He shrank back in horror, for there he saw the body of the king pierced by hundreds of needles and an attendant still busy adding these means of torture. And then the boy became perplexed. The sight made him feel faint and miserable. Noticing this, the king said, ‘Go, my boy, it is enough for today. Tomorrow I shall instruct you again.’

The lad was very intelligent; he understood the lesson: how it was possible to enjoy the highest and also to suffer the severest without being disturbed, for had he not seen how the king was unmoved? There was no sign in speech or behaviour or look to indicate the enjoyment on the one side and the suffering on the other.

The boy bowed down before the king, his guru, wept and asked to be pardoned for his evil thoughts. He had learned something his father had not taught him.